Guangxi Province – Cormorant Fishing

On this evening, we headed back to Yangshuo to experience Cormorant Fishing on the Li River. Cormorant fishing is an old-time method of fishing in many parts of China. It’s particularly associated with the west and especially with Guangxi Province. The birds are excellent hunters and the fishermen use them to their advantage. Their necks are constricted with rope so they can’t swallow any fish and each time they catch a fish, they return to the boat for the fisherman to collect. About every seventh fish caught, the birds are awarded one fish to eat. The birds are prized possessions and fishermen select the eggs before hatching and they nurture, rear and train them – a process that takes years.

We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into as we came into the city. All we knew was it just was not measuring up: Fishing and it’s getting dark. How do you see birds fish at night? One thing we have learned traveling in a country where our language is not #1, is to stay calm and wait; as it always works out. It may not be exactly as we thought it would work out to be, but that adds to the adventure and typically we find the end result turns out better than hoped. With this, the driver just took us into town dropped us off at some hotel front and gave us a hand signal that said, “Wait.” Then he left.

We were across the street from the Li River, so we figured it had to be okay. After about 15 minutes a young gal and her young son, about age 3, came around the corner and signaled for us to follow. No English, but we figured why not. She led us down to the dock and directed us to get on a raft/boat had five rows of four person benches. We managed to have all of us on one.

Thinking I was so smart, I put us all in the back… Ha! Not so smart on my part. In little time, I was getting razzed by the family because I put us right over the diesel engine. A very loud diesel engine… Thank goodness for always carrying toilet paper. We quickly made ear plugs. (It helped drown out the razzing too. 🙂 ) Now it was dark and we were wondering how can we see anything? But in little time, up the river, a fisherman came out from the shallows on his raft with his cormorants leading the way. With a light on the end of his raft, the birds began fishing…

To our surprise after following him for 15 minutes or so, we pulled over in the shallows, got off our boat and we all had the opportunity to hold a bird and have it immortalized in a photo. We all agree this was a pretty darn cool thing to do, as you can see from our newly, sunburned faces as we held the birds.

Click on any image to enlarge. Or better yet… click on the first photo and scroll through them all.


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  1. Joyce April 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    What an adventure for sure. I hope they treat their birds well, not like the dogs I assume since they help them eat? You all have such red faces ;-0 I guess it is warmer there 😉

    • Tina April 17, 2012 at 12:46 am #

      Dog is not on the menu in Guangxi. But they treat them by kicking at them and hitting them often–for reasons we can’t tell why. So dogs, being smart, just stay away from people, men especially. The birds seemed to be well taken care of. They were owed by a female. Cows are even leary of people. Mike went to touch one, he bent over to scratch his leg, stood up and the cow thought he was going to throw something at it so it ran away.

      Yes, the weather here was awesome. Even if it rained, the drops were warm and the temp outside will still in the 70s.

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